When federal officials raided a San Francisco Bay-area medical marijuana training school in April, it sparked outrage among supporters of the program and ruffled feathers of local officials.
The shutdown of Oaksterdam University, though, was yet another in an ongoing dispute between federal and local officials on the topic of legalized marijuana. It's one that has been escalating over the past year — but so far discussions between the state and feds have been rare.
"We're always open to being approached and developing a dialogue, but you have two instances of policies — one on a national level and another on the state level," says Arturo Sanchez, deputy city administrator for Oakland. "Our state constitution recognizes and legalizes the rights of patients to use medical cannabis. The conflict between the two policies makes [the situation] difficult."
While the legality of the drug is an issue officials continue to quibble over, few dispute its potential as a source of revenue. Dispensaries and growers have paid millions of dollars in taxes to communities and states where medical marijuana is legal. In March, Oakland — a city that is in such economic distress that it occasionally closes city offices to cut expenditures — gave approval for four new dispensaries in order to generate more tax revenue. The city also doubled the permit price to $60,000.
Dispensaries are expected to generate $1.4 million in business tax revenue in Oakland this year — as well as an additional $280,000 in sales taxes. Right now, however, the city is not budgeting for an increase in that amount despite the approval of new dispensaries.
"We are experiencing more of a saturation of market," says David McPherson, Oakland's tax and revenue administrator. "So we have not budgeted additional revenues yet until we can identity if there's new growth versus taking customers away from existing businesses."